O P T I C S T E C H N O L O G Y
Electroplating of Hard Glassy Metals
NASA seeks companies interested
in licensing this coating
Developed at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), this technology is a novel
method for electroplating ultra-high-strength glassy metals—nickel-phosphorous and nickel-
cobalt-phosphorous—in a variety of alloys with different properties. Traditionally, these metals
are deposited onto substrates via electroless deposition. NASA Marshall’s technology combines
the material properties associated with electroless deposition with the many process advan-
tages afforded by electroplating. This innovative technique offers several benefits and can be
used in numerous commercial applications.
• Process is lower temperature than electroless deposition (40–65 °C vs. 85–90 °C).
• Coatings are high strength (1,930 MPa) and high hardness (50–52 on Rockwell C scale).
• Residual stress from tensile to compressive can be controlled in real time.
• Plating rates are faster than with electroless deposition (6.35–25.4 µm/hr).
• Plating is highly efficient (~90% at 45 °C).
• Process requires less maintenance, has low ventilation needs, has a low operations cost,
and exhibits less burn and fuming than conventional techniques.
• Versatile process can accommodate a variety of nickel alloys, from nonmagnetic to
National • The technology offers a very long process life span because it does not suffer from
Aeronautics solution-phase precipitation, which requires constant stripping of equipment.
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center has developed an innovative new process for electroplating
nickel-phosphorous and nickel-cobalt-phosphorous into high-quality, ultra-hard coatings. These
metals usually are deposited onto parts by electroless deposition, which involves placing the part
in a bath containing nickel ions that evenly coat all exposed surfaces. Although it yields a high-
quality coating, electroless deposition does not allow for much process control, requires high
processing temperatures, and has a slower deposition rate than with electroplating. Better process
control is available through electroplating, which involves placing a voltage across a nickel
electrode (i.e., anode) and the part in a solution (i.e., cathode) and thus driving the nickel to
coat the part via electrolytic processes.
Since NASA needed hundreds of high-quality X-ray mirrors for its next generation X-ray
observatories, researchers sought to develop a metal deposition process that yielded high-quality
coatings similar to electroless deposition but with the process controls provided by electroplating.
This technology is the result of their extensive research.
NASA Marshall’s technology enables stress-free plating, deposits glassy metal alloys at higher
rates, and provides deposition at a much lower processing temperature than with electroless
deposition. Plating rates are constant and predictable, and coatings can be extremely hard. The
versatile process can be used to electroform free-standing shapes with any specified size or
Commercial thickness using soluble anodes for metal replenishment. Coating materials can range from
Applications nonmagnetic to highly magnetic metals, metals with glassy nickel properties, free machining
• Telescopes, alloys, corrosion-resistant alloys, decorative blue oxides, and nonreflective black oxide. This
microscopes process also mitigates the need for constant chemical metal replenishment. The phosphorous is
replaced at 1:1 consumption, unlike the 5:1 rate of electroless processes. Buildup of harmful by-
• Compact discs
products is minimal, and solutions can be left unattended for very thick deposit growth. These
• Computers features result in a safer and more environmentally favorable process.
• Automobiles This technology is part of NASA’s technology transfer program. The program seeks to stimulate
• Decorative, commercial use of NASA-developed technologies. A patent application has been filed for this
wear-resistant, technology, and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center seeks companies interested in licensing it
corrosion-resistant for commercial uses. NASA is flexible in its agreements, and opportunities exist for exclusive,
coatings nonexclusive, and exclusive field-of-use licensing.
• Aircraft, military
components For More Information
If you would like more information about this technology or about NASA’s technology transfer
program, please contact:
Peter Liao Sammy Nabors
NASA Technology Applications Team NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
Research Triangle Institute Technology Transfer Department
Phone: (919) 541-6124 Phone: (256) 544-5226
Fax: (919) 541-6221 Fax: (256) 544-3151
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org E-mail: email@example.com
More information about working with MSFC’s Technology Transfer Department is available online.
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